Some Archaeologists Think They Have Found the Biblical City Where David Hid from Saul. Others Disagree

July 10, 2019 | Amanda Borschel-Dan

According to the book of Samuel, David took refuge in the Philistine city of Ziklag while on the run from King Saul. While experts have proposed various sites as the city’s locations, none has yielded convincing evidence—that is, until Yosef Garfinkle, one of Israel’s leading archaeologists, made some unexpected discoveries while excavating Khirbet a-Ra’i. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

After seven seasons of digging, [Garfinkle’s] team found evidence of a Philistine-era settlement from the 12th–11th centuries BCE, under layers of a rural settlement dating to the early 10th century BCE, generally considered the Davidic era. Among the findings were massive stone structures and typical Philistine cultural artifacts, including pottery in foundation deposits—good-luck offerings laid beneath a building’s flooring. Some of the olive pits and other organic objects found in the deposits were sent for carbon dating, which confirmed their contexts, said the archaeologists.

Given the location of the excavations in the Judean foothills, Philistine artifacts, along with the carbon-14 dating, have all pointed the archaeologists toward identifying the site as [Ziklag]. The town is first mentioned in the Bible in the book of Joshua, in which it is apportioned to the tribe of Judah. Later, it is given to the tribe of Simeon. In the book of Samuel, David and 600 of his men and their families settled in for fourteen months at the Philistine city under the patronage of the Philistine King Achish of Gat, . . . and used it as a base to raid neighboring peoples, whom he and his men slaughtered.

[But] not all the experts are convinced that this is Ziklag. Indeed, the Bar Ilan University professor Aren Maeir . . . is adamant that it is not. . . . There is one verse in the book of Joshua in which Ziklag (along with Beersheba and other southern settlements) is apportioned to the tribe of Judah (15:31), which would make the newly proposed location possible. Indeed, much of Philistia lies in Judah’s allotment. In Joshua 19:5, however, it is allocated to the tribe of Simeon, which was given Judah’s southern portion [far from Ziklag].

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